America is facing a crisis with regard to drugs and in particular, heroin. Gone are the days of teenagers smoking some weed behind the garage, sneaking beer out of their dad’s supply, or bumming cigarettes off the older kids who could buy them. Today we are dealing with a much more serious problem – opioids.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death, with 52,404 lethal overdoses in 2015 alone. Of those, roughly 20,000 are from misusing prescription pain relievers, and nearly 13,000 are heroin overdoses. ASAM also reported that nearly 4 out of 5 new heroin users started after they had already become addicted to painkillers.
The rise in deaths related to opioid addicted has been paralleled by the rise in prescriptions and sales of painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. From 1999 through 2010 sales skyrocketed by four times. In 2012, more 259 million prescriptions for opioids were written.
With all of this rise in demand for opioids, the supply must increase in order for the price to remain low and affordable. The great bulk of opioid production, some saying upwards of 90%, comes from Afghanistan.
Prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, opium production was quite the opposite. The Taliban had implemented laws banning the growing of poppy plants. In July of 2000, Mullah Mohammed Omar, then-leader of the Taliban, declared the farming of opium un-Islamic and against the law. The result was a 99% decrease in opium production in Afghanistan, but unfortunately, after the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban fell out of power and was unable to enforce the law.
Today, the opium game is back in full swing, both on the sales end, and the production end. The Taliban itself is now receiving 60%+ of its funding through opioids, and seems less interested in banning the drug. Afghans themselves are struggling with addiction. Over 1.6 million people in the impoverished country are said to be regular users of heroin, although some claims there could be millions more living outside major Afghan cities.
Not only has the war in Afghanistan cost the lives of over 2,000 American soldiers, but with the resulting rise in opium production, it is costing us more each day. The war resulted in greater drug addiction not just in America but also in Afghanistan, where addicts have few options for treatment.